Michael D. Weitzner, D.M.D., M.S.
Healthy Mom, Healthy Child!
Posted by Michael D. Weitzner Jan. 3, 2013
February is National Children's Dental Health Month, an excellent time to think about your own oral health and that of your young children.
When we think of children's dental health we focus on the importance of brushing our child's teeth, encouraging them to stay away from sugar and keeping up with dental check ups. But did you know that when you are pregnant, and immediately after, you are not only eating for two you are also brushing for two? When you take care of your dental health, it can make a difference for your young children as well as yourself.
Being pregnant can be hard on your teeth. If you have morning sickness, it can be hard to brush and floss, and if you are vomiting, acid can harm the tooth enamel. And eating more can increase your risk of tooth decay, especially if you chose sugary snacks.
It's important to understand that a healthy mouth before, during and after a pregnancy is important not only for your own well being, but for your child as well. The reality of bacteria causing tooth decay from a mother or caretaker's mouth is it can be passed to a child's mouth. And, while many people think baby teeth are placeholders (they fall out anyway, right?), the fact is they have a very important role to play. Baby teeth allow a child to chew and form words, but they also reserve space and position for permanent teeth and aid in the development of jaw bone and facial muscles.
When children loose teeth due to unchecked tooth decay it may lead to poor eating habits, speech problems and oral infections-all of which can lead to badly damaged adult teeth; discolored, crooked and/or poorly formed teeth. Additionally, it's important to keep baby teeth healthy and in place to ensure the permanent teeth come in properly.
The first thing to know is that the health of your mouth impacts your children. Bacteria from your mouth can be passed on to your children by sharing a spoon or simply kissing your child on the mouth. Additionally, children pick up on your habits and imitate them. If they see you brush and floss, they will. You play a very important role in your child's oral health.
So what can you do to keep yourself healthy?
- Brush your teeth at least twice daily using a fluoride toothpaste
- Floss at least once a day
- Rinse daily with a fluoride mouthwash
- Choose healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, and avoid sugary or starchy snacks and soda
- Visit your dentist at least once during your pregnancy and once you have had your baby. He or she can clean your teeth and help you control any tooth decay or gum disease. A dental visit is safe any time during your pregnancy!
In addition to yourself, there are additional steps you can take to help your child get started on a lifetime of great dental health:
- Never put baby to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquid. When these liquids pool in a baby's mouth, they form a sugary film on the baby's teeth, leading to decay and infection.
- Starting at birth, clean baby's gums with a soft cloth and water. As teeth begin coming in, start brushing baby's teeth with a soft bristled toothbrush, using a little dab of fluoride toothpaste.
- Schedule baby's first dental visit when his/her first tooth comes in, usually between the ages of six-12 months of age.
Be sure to take advantage of the preventive benefits provided in your dental plan and visit your dentist regularly. By taking care of your mouth while you are pregnant and immediately afterwards, you are setting a great example for your children and ensuring that they can have the best possible start down the road of good oral health.